@David —Â Thanks for being honest! To your points…
The golden mean is just one possible ratio. My calculator offers three, but modular scales can be built from any ratio that you feel is meaningful. As for using font-size as the basis for a scale, you’re right —Â it’s a bit arbitrary. Upthread, Joni Korpi offered line-height as an alternative, and I’ve been talking with folks here and there about delving deeper than font-size to find measurements within fonts’ construction.
See, the font-size we specify maps to a font’s “em box”:http://blog.typekit.com/2010/07/14/font-metrics-and-vertical-space-in-css/ ... but type designers can make their fonts any size, and position them any way, within this em box. If we could take meaning from the characters themselves —Â or their general, design-wide proportions — that would be much more meaningful than using the em box.
That all said, modular scales have been used in typesetting for hundreds of years, and designing outward from type makes sense for the web. Basing scales on font-size is a good place to start exploring.
That’s a shame. I didn’t intend to make readers feel uncomfortable. I tried top-aligning the sidebar, and even tried a couple graphic devices (a rule, a fleuron) to make it feel right, but this felt best to me.
This is a good example of how modular scales are not an easy answer, but rather a tool. I think the values my scale produced look great overall — “scale”:http://nicewebtype.com/fonts/minion-with-myriad-condensed/ / “no scale”:http://nicewebtype.com/fonts/minion-with-myriad-condensed-noms/ — but perhaps I didn’t make the best design choices in the case of the sidebar. Maybe I could have positioned it a bit higher, using a smaller number from my scale. Or maybe I should have led with an image, to define the column with a bit more strength.
Many paragraph styles are appropriate for web text. Jon Tan put together a fantastic post exploring this, called “The Paragraph in Web Typography & Design”:http://jontangerine.com/log/2008/06/the-paragraph-in-web-typography-and-design —Â check it out!
Thanks again for being honest and critical, David. I hope you won’t discount this approach to typesetting based on my choices in this article’s example. I’m certain typographers more talented than I will make better examples than I have, and produce some truly excellent work for us all to study and admire.